While I'm away, readers give the advice.
When exes find bliss with the very next person they meet
It's Really Not You: Not that you are my husband's ex, but if you were:
1. He liked you a lot, but he had quirks you kept trying to change, quirks he didn't want to change. And I thought the same quirks were delightful. I really don't mind hearing his favorite anecdote over and over — he and I have been together for seven years, I think I've heard it a million times now. I can recite it. I still think it's a great story.
2. You had quirks he didn't mind in a girlfriend, but made him want to kill himself when he considered marrying you. And they weren't bad things — your obsession with making task lists, for example — so he didn't feel like he had the right to ask you to change. His one attempt at asking you not to make lists for him didn't go well, and that wasn't your fault, but that didn't make him want to spend a lifetime looking at a fridge full of lists.
3. Your sex drives were different (yours was . . . higher). His and mine are compatible. 'Nuff said.
4. You thought his family was kind of tacky. They are. But I'm from an equally tacky family, and so I fit better from almost day one.
You are prettier than I am, sexier than I am, and a better person than I am, if I'm going to be honest. When I met you I went home and cried, because I could not fathom why he wanted to be with me, with someone like you in his past!
But he and I are two peas in a pod, with the same sense of humor, approach to life, attitude toward marriage and chores and money, the works. You had none of those things, just love and affection. That's not enough. The only way you could have married him was to resign you both to endless counseling and a nagging suspicion that a marriage shouldn't be so hard.
Know when to offer constructive criticism
Shelly in Oregon: Two of the wisest women in my life have shared some advice with me that has served me in good stead.
My mother told me that if it can't be fixed in five minutes, with the materials at hand, then don't mention it. So, an unzipped zipper, doughnut crumbs on your shirt, parsley in your teeth — all fair game to bring to someone's attention. Height, weight, stain on clothing, size of nose — off limits.
The second piece of advice was given to me by a dear friend, about how to tell if one is gossiping or not. If I'm not part of the problem and/or I'm not part of the solution, then there is no need for me to discuss it with anyone.
These two guidelines have been invaluable to me and I've taught them to my kids from the time they could comprehend them.